An Opening Day comeback attempt came up short this afternoon, as the Detroit Tigers held on for a 4-2 victory at Target Field. The Twins lineup just could not get that one big hit that they needed to get over the hump. Here’s a few quick notes and observations from game 1 of a long season, that hopefully won’t drag on ending in another last place finish.
* Our starting catcher is in mid-season form on April 1st. Joe Mauer reached 4 out of 5 at-bats, hitting every ball to the left side of the field. He had good long at bats that contributed to Jim Leyland having to go to his bullpen 4 different times this afternoon.
* I’m cautiously optimistic about Vance Worley after pitching pretty well against a great Tigers lineup. He gave up 8 hits and 3 runs, walked 1 and struck out 3 in 6 innings. Although he allowed the 8 hits, it didn’t seem like he got hit hard at all, and induced 13 ground ball outs to just 2 fly ball outs. I’m excited to see how he fares against lesser lineups as the season goes on.
* Twins hitters knocked Verlander out after just 5 innings, which took him 91 pitches to get through. In all, Tigers pitchers threw a total of 172 pitches, but not all because of great at bats. Chris Parmelee, for one, struck out in the 7th with the bases loaded and 2 outs on a pitch that didn’t look like it even started in the strike zone. Some of the long at bats were just a result of swinging at bad pitches early and trying to stay alive deep in the counts.
* Home plate umpire Jim Joyce called a ball 3 to Austin Jackson to open up the game on a Worley fastball that seemed to catch most of the plate. That pitch would have struck Jackson out, but Jackson instead ripped the 3-2 to pitch to right-center for a single. Torii Hunter followed with a dribbler to the right side on a hit and run that squeaked past a diving Brian Dozier to make it 1st and 3rd with no outs for Miguel Cabrera. Who knows if the Tigers would have gotten 2 runs in the first if Jackson had been called out on that pitch, but it did not put Worley in a great position in his first inning as a Minnesota Twin.
* Josh Willingham took 2 called third strikes on breaking balls with runners in scoring position, part of a total 1-9 with RISP as a team. The Tigers weren’t much better with only 2-12.
* The Twins Defense struggled as a whole, especially Pedro Florimon. Aside from the error he made on a routine hop which loaded the bases; Florimon should have had strike-him-out throw-him-out in the 2nd inning, but dropped Mauer’s throw that was right on the runner Peralta. It would have been the 2nd out of the inning, and eventually led to a run.
* I really like Aaron Hicks and Mauer in the 1-2 spots. They will see a ton of pitches, and wear down starting pitchers all year – much like they did with Verlander today. Hicks was overmatched by the veteran Tiger ace today, striking out his first 3 at bats, but he seems like the kind of guy that will settle in after he gets a game or two under his belt.
Most of all, it was just really good to have baseball back again today. It’s always great to see the new faces, young rising stars, and familiar veterans donning the “TC” for another 162 (and hopefully more) games this summer. It’s never easy facing a guy like Verlander, especially in 35 degree weather, but the Twins certainly failed to take advantage of all their chances today – offensively and defensively. I felt good about the biggest question mark coming into the season – the pitching – but the bats and gloves need to help out the Twins arms if they want to improve on the 90+ loss seasons.
Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.